Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Jindal Signs Parole Reform for Louisiana (Highest Incarceration Rate in the US)

Louisiana's prison crisis has been much in the news recently. Just a few days ago Marjorie Esman of the Louisiana ACLU publicized the horrific conditions in Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country (853 inmates per 100,000 people - a number rapidly approaching one for every 100 people. This figure is higher than most totalitarian regimes around the globe, and is significantly weighted against black men). Today, significant progress has been made in addressing that issue.

The ACLU had sponsored a bill, House Bill 543, which  grants parole eligibility for nonviolent and non-sex offenders who have been sentenced to life without parole. These prisoners wouldn’t automatically be let out of prison – rather, they would have the chance to go before a parole board and prove that they are ready to re-enter society rather than spending the rest of their lives behind bars.

They worked on that bill with a wide range of allies, including the warden of Angola State Penitentiary and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops. For different but powerful reasons they, like the ACLU, understood that prison should be for people who pose a risk of harm to others, and not for people who have redeemed themselves and can be productive again.

In a remarkable victory, this bill is now law. It passed the Louisiana legislature and on June 4 it was signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, a conservative Republican who knows that the state has better ways to spend its money than on overcrowded prisons.

A statement released by the ACLU said,

"The United States, led by the State of Louisiana, should not be the world's largest incarcerator. We're doing what we can to change things."

Kudos to Louisiana's ACLU!


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